Nonpharmacological Interventions for ADHD: A Review

With ADHD, arguably the most common treatment/intervention involves the use of medication. However, other treatments/interventions exist that may have value for these students, and it is important that these are adequately studied before being recommended. Sonuga-Barke et al. (2013) conducted a systematic review (meta-analysis) of non-pharmacological interventions for ADHD.

To summarize their findings, they found that:

  • Dietary interventions:
    • Had small beneficial effects
    • “Free fatty acid supplementation and artificial food color exclusions appear to have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms, although the effect of the former are small and those of the latter may be limited to ADHD patients with food sensitivities” (Sonuga-Barke et al., 2013, p. 285). Clinical significance may be close to negligible.
    • Restrictive elimination diets require more (blinded) evidence.
  • Behavior interventions:
    • Limited to unblinded ratings, which is problematic as these individuals have a clear stake in the results. Thus, more, blinded evidence is needed. (Sonuga-Barke et al., 2013).
  • Psychological interventions:
    • “While the most proximal assessment data on neurofeedback [and] cognitive training…. were potentially more positive, evidence of efficacy from blinded assessments is required before they are likely to be supported as ADHD treatments” (Sonuga-Barke et al., 2013, p. 285).”

As of the time of writing this post, this resource is available via ResearchGate without a subscription at:

However, as with many web resources, this link may change over time, or may return to requiring a subscription. Therefore, the reference below should allow for finding this resource in its original form.


Sonuga-Barke, E. J., Brandeis, D., Cortese, S., Daley, D., Ferrin, M., Holtmann, M., … & Dittmann, R. W. (2013). Nonpharmacological interventions for ADHD: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of dietary and psychological treatments. American Journal of Psychiatry 170, 275-289. 


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